Conservatives to Diminish Access to Top Astronomy Interpretive Centre/Historic Site

The Harper Conservatives will be cutting back public access to the Centre of the Universe, an astronomy interpretive centre and national historic site in Victoria, BC, at the end of August.

It appears that centre staff have been instructed not to talk to the public or the media. Callers are being told to contact media relations at the National Research Council (NRC), which oversees the centre. Typically, the NRC is arguing that centre tours are no longer “sustainable.” The cuts are “due to financial constraints.”

“I can’t believe that we are witnessing yet another blow to science and even the fabric of Canada,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands. “Slowly, but steadily the institutions that educate and inspire Canadians are being taken away from them.”

The Centre of the Universe, located on the top of Observatory Hill, features telescope tours and presentations in its planetarium and multimedia theatre. Visitors can enjoy first-hand the 1.8-m Plaskett Telescope which has been in operation since 1918 and has made what the centre calls a “vital contribution to Canadian astronomy.”

One full-time staff member will be placed elsewhere and two part-time positions have been cut. The NRC wants volunteers to run any programs. The centre will be closed except for weekends or whenever volunteers are available to staff it.

“Having had the privilege of touring this extraordinary facility I know personally the impact it has on young schoolchildren,” said May. “It opens their minds to astro-physics. It connects them to the universe. These cuts are unjustified.”